While homestay in Sikkim goes down to zero in seasonal time due to the second wave of the pandemic, the homestay owners are in hope situation will be normal as soon as possible, even hundred of are tourist are ringing Hillrooms to know about the reopening of Sikkim.
With the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19 taking a toll on the tourism industry in Sikkim, the homestay business across the Sikkim has been severely hit in both rural and urban Sikkim.
Sikkim’s Homestay is such a special experience for the metropolitan guest, rather than the hotel, at first they always search for the homestay a little far away from the crowded town which is all occupied by a hotel.
Before pandemic life was good then for the traveller waking up at 5 PM and arranging everything to go to Changu lake, Nathula, and Baba Mandir which has become memories for many tourists who have planned vacation in 2021.
Zuluk a small hamlet in East Sikkim which only depends on homestay is in hard-hit during this pandemic time, most guests used to stay there because the place is covered by snow-clapped zig-zag road mountain. All people in Zuluk depend on tourism in December 2020 most homestays in Zuluk are trying to create a model that would allow tourists to enjoy the break homestay experience, while also ensuring the safety of both guests and hosts but nevertheless second wave of covid hit it again.
Kunley Bhutia, who runs a homestay in North Sikkim’s Lachung village, says that his all income depends on tourism only. During covid ended in December to April, Kunley’s guests would find the way to their rooms through reference where he used to get 100% of his booking for his room. For covid safety, he even bought his own Xylo to carry tourists from pickup to his homestay.
Homestay always deals with a different model in Sikkim, unlike hotel guest have to book food. There have been a few changes in the way Kunley’s homestay. For instance, earlier his guests could be booking meal in the room. Instead, he encouraged them to self-serve in order to give them the ‘home away from home feeling in Lachung.
Talking about the current situation in Sikkim, he said everywhere is the same in Sikkim and has nothing to say. He just wished normal should return as soon as possible as he is still getting hundreds of calls from his old guest saying when lockdown will open in Sikkim.
Not just Lachung, if we talk about west Sikkim not only hotel and homestay are affected but the local people who used to sell tea and fast food outside famous spot like Sinsore Bridge and other are in badly hit. They largely depend on selling tea and food across the tourist spot to sell their products. Last year’s March to July season was all empty and this year’s also which one is peak season in Sikkim is now troubled due to the pandemic.
Homestay is a huge market among tourists in Sikkim, who also make sure guests will experience like family in Sikkim. “Last months in Dec to March, Covid cases in Sikkim was almost zero and everything was open, we hosted 550 guests and most of them had come to relax after long lockdown across the country,” says homestay owner in East Sikkim.
While many homestay owners in Sikkim are ready to set to host guests if lockdown gets over, but at the same time, some homestay owners don’t think that reopening would be a wise decision right now, given the unpredictable nature of the virus also healthcare has been the crisis in rural Sikkim.
In Pendam east Sikkim, a large number of the guest came to see organic farming, most guests book and stay there for a long week like 2-3 weeks at an affordable cost mostly are big cities couple.
Talking about pradhan homestay in Bharsey west Sikkim, Owner Purushottam Pradhan who owns the largest trekking company in Sikkim “We don’t earn from homestay only. We also do organic farming, potatoes farming which is one of the best in Sikkim, and we take people on treks and expeditions to Hilley and Bharsey. So we have worked on our core competencies and that is helping us sustain right now,” says Pradhan. His organisation in west Sikkim is also spreading awareness among homestay owners in other parts of west Sikkim.